Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spiritual Sundays: A Day to Remember

This is the candlelight vigil held on the evening of September 12, 2001 at Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) in Fredericksburg Virginia. I was there.

On this day of remembrance I felt I would be remiss if I did not write a special post in commemoration. I have struggled to know what I could write today that has not already been written, what words of wisdom I might share that have not already been spoken, what comfort I might offer that has not already been given. But I believe in situations like this, originality is not the goal; often, God works through repetition to teach us those things we just can't seem to learn on our own.

I was just watching a recorded episode of Miracle Detectives in which the "detectives" were exploring various stories of miracles from 9/11. While one detective believed in miracles, the other was very skeptical. She said that she didn't see God at all in the events that happened that day- all she saw was pain and suffering. It was her opinion that to claim that some survived because of God's plan would be to also say that so many others died according to God's plan. What kind of God would make a terrible plan like that?

I started thinking about how sometimes, as God's children, we want to scream, "It's NOT FAIR!!!!" Then I thought of the many times I have heard my own children say those same three words, and how I can seem like such an unfair and unloving parent to them.

I let my 7-year-old son ride his bike down to his friend's house, but I make my toddler stay in the driveway. It's NOT FAIR!! But if I let my toddler run down the road alone, she could be so seriously hurt.

I give the yummy medicine to my 5-year-old and my 7-year-old is told it's not for him. It's NOT FAIR!! But if I were to give him medicine he doesn't need, it could make him very sick.

I let my 7-year-old use the big scissors to cut off a tag, and tell my 5-year-old that she must wait for me to cut off her tag for her. It's NOT FAIR!! But if I were to let her use the big scissors, her uncoordinated movements might cause a serious injury.

Do any of these situations demonstrate that I love one child more than another? In my adult wisdom, I clearly see that they do not. In fact, it demonstrates just how much I love each of my children, and how mindful I am of their individual well-being. But to my children, I am being grossly unfair. They cannot see what I see. I see them in all their abilities, both advanced and still growing. I see the danger in the world around them, and I know what they can handle and what they cannot. I see the unseen: pitfalls and consequences known only through my personal knowledge acquired through years of experience. I see the bigger picture.

I once read a quotation that I believe was by G. K. Chesterton (I tried to find it but I couldn't) that said something to the effect of, "We know as much about God as the pancake we're making for breakfast knows about us." I think we could extend that to say that we also probably know just about the same amount about the universe that God created for us. I truly believe that our Heavenly Father is a loving father, and while we may see so many things in life as being awful and unfair, they are such a small part of the greater whole, and we too such a small part of that whole, that we often can't possibly hope to see the purpose behind them.

After I have to tell my children no, sometimes I am able to explain the reasoning behind my actions. Other times, especially when they're very young and I know they just won't understand, the best I can hope to do is to comfort them with a hug and guide them to another activity that might help them feel happy again. Fortunately, our Heavenly Father does the same for us. He gives us explanations when He can, though not always right away. He is more than generous with offering comfort, when we turn to Him. He guides us toward future happiness and peace, easing the pains that come along with growth and trial.

For me, it is the feeling of His love as we work through the grief that helps me to know that He is there, and that He loves me. It is the lessons that I learn from the heartbreak that help me to understand that what, at the time, seems like an all-consuming flame is really just the refiner's fire, making me stronger and better than I ever could have been without it.

Please know that it is not my intention to make light of the events of September 11th, or to downplay the grief and pain that so many suffer. That day was a nightmare, no doubt, for many, and they are entitled to mourn. Their suffering is real. We don't know why God chose to take so many home to Him that day, and why others were left. But as we turn to Him, He can not only salve the raw wounds, but He can help us to see the bigger picture. I truly believe that He loves each and every one of us, and that He wants us to be our best selves. He sees the divine within each of us and He has a purpose for us that is far greater than anything we could ever dream for ourselves. Unfortunately, sometimes that means enduring things that seem far greater than anything we could ever imagine enduring.

I'll leave you with the words to one of my favorite songs by Michael McLean:

All I've ever wanted, all I've ever dreamed of, everything I hoped, and all the things I prayed for couldn't hold a candle to what I've been given: I've been given what I need.

Even when I didn't understand, when I thought you had no heart, thank you for rejecting my demands and always giving me the better part.

All I've ever wanted, all I've ever dreamed of, everything I hoped, and all the things I prayed for couldn't hold a candle to what I've been given: I've been given what I need.

To learn more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit

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